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I've always had a lot of time for the Dirty Three. And since it's been a while since their last album I suppose you're wondering if they've still got it. Both live and on record they've always been a moving and exciting act, capable of conjuring swooping, slow-burning epics that wash over you and overcome you with their powerful emotional resonance as surely as the swirling tide in that climactic scene from Cobra Verde. Warren Ellis is now also a full-time Bad Seed and Grinderman, of course, as well as doing various soundtracks with Nick Cave, so it's safe to say he's a busy boy. Never one to rest on his laurels, though, and with every new Dirty Three record they always play around with the formula a bit. This one's no exception, with the band opening with a couple of keyboard-heavy numbers and the violin astonishingly barely making an appearance until the third track. These opening numbers are lovely, though, with Jim White's inimitable drumming really getting a chance to come to the fore to create dusky, jazzy, mystical grooves over which Mick Turner's guitar chunters elegantly with the keys underpinning the melodic structure. The fact that it still sounds exactly like the Dirty Three is impressive, but when the violin finally does take centre stage it's welcomingly familiar, albeit more restrained and less histrionic than on their earlier records. Ellis's playing is always a treat to the ears, beautiful tone and control and that ever-present sense of physicality and soul that's always made his work so powerful. By allowing his fiddling to be less of a focal point this time round this album's got a really rounded feel to it, and when Ellis's trademark scraping chords puncture the air in That Was Was, only two tracks from the end, it's more triumphant than searing, especially when he throws on some distortion and busts out a total power ballad-style guitar-esque solo. Then the keys come back to the fore in a pretty little number with sweeping, understated strings, and then final track 'You Greet Her Ghost' is a sad little blast of “classic”-sounding Dirty Three with its slow, resigned groove and scattershot drumming and roaming violin, easing us out of our epic journey. So in answer to your question, yes, they've still got it.
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